Louise Bone, regional support manager at Practice Plan, looks at the importance of communicating in the new ‘grey world’ we’re in and how to improve the ways you do this.
Since March, the safety and security of an evidence-based, factual, black-and-white world in which we live and work has been replaced by shades of grey.
A grey world is a more confusing world. The rules change, the system changes, home life changes. As individuals we change – sometimes in the space of one working day.
The good news is that there are ways to mitigate the confusion and minimise the stress it can cause to you and those who depend on you. Such as your patients, team and even your family.
Communicate to clear confusion
One of the most effective, and simplest, ways to do this is to be a good communicator.
This is even better than good news, as we all have the ability to be a good communicator. It doesn’t mean you have to have all the answers or be able to transform the world back into black and white. You just have to be able to communicate well with those around you.
I say you ‘just have to be able to communicate well’. However, in the current situation there are many obstacles to getting your message across. Even for the best communicators.
For example, the spiralling use of acronyms and jargon (SOPs, AGPs and so on). Emotional barriers and taboos as people struggle with issues brought up by lockdown. And a potential lack of attention from those who are receiving your message as they may feel distracted by things brought up by the current situation.
While we all can communicate on a basic level, we all know that some people seem naturally more effective at it than others. But even those who are usually great at communicating are having to up their game at times like these.
The question is, how can you do this when it comes to running your dental practice in this new grey world?
Three ways of communicating
Communication happens in three different ways: verbally, non-verbally and visually. Take a moment, reflect on how you communicate and give yourself a score out of 10 for each area in order to identify where you could improve.
To help you do that, here’s a little bit more detail about each of the three ways of communicating:
1. Verbal communication
This includes the use of your voice and words to express yourself, the tone and volume of your voice, the frequency of your words.
Are you taking the time to compose your words? Are you using silence as your best friend after you have spoken openly and honestly?
In this ever-changing, and often stressful world, what is your current score out of 10?
2. Non-verbal communication
Otherwise known as body language; encompasses gestures, facial expressions, and body positions as well as unspoken understandings.
Many studies have recognised body language (and things other than the words you use, such as tone of voice) as accounting for 80% of any successful face-to-face communication outcome.
What is your current score out of 10 if you are tired and no doubt sometimes stressed?
3. Visual communication
This is believed to be the type that people rely on most. It includes signs, graphic designs, films, typography and so on.
Imagine that you’re on holiday in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language very well, and you get lost while driving. In this scenario you cannot rely on asking someone. So instead you use a map, landmarks, routes, and familiar signs. All of which are elements of visual communication.
Consider how your practice fares in terms of the messages it is sending out visually (through signage, posters and so on) and how clear it is, and rate yourself out of 10.
Understanding how well you communicate can help you to focus attention on making sure you’re doing it to the best of your ability. This is vital when it comes to providing strong leadership. As well as steering your practice out of the other side of the coronavirus crisis.
It will continue to be a changing picture for some time to come. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to provide the sharp definition that members of your team or your patients may like.
But clearly communicating what you do know will go a long way to providing reassurance and clarity.